“The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Trigger warning: Today’s subject is white supremacy and the Republican Party.
So here’s where our “nation of immigrants” is, people: The president of the United States has told four first-term Democratic members of Congress to go back to the countries they came from. And he’s demanded that they cease criticizing the United States of America.
Three of the four are American citizens born on this soil; the fourth is a naturalized citizen born in Somalia. They are Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Known as “The Squad,” all are non-white. All are women. All are younger, and less diplomatic, than your average member of Congress. All are intentional troublemakers — and thus a gift to Trump.
Our president’s “base” reliably swallowed his calculated racist bait. Their “Send her back!” — initially aimed at Omar, the Somalian-American — has become the racist rallying cry leading into the 2020 election.
Here’s the worst part: It’s all fine with the Republican Party.
When the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on a resolution that called out the president for his treatment of the four nettlesome lawmakers, only four Republicans voted in favor of condemning the president’s un-American behavior: Will Hurd of Texas, (the only black Republican in the House), Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Susan Brooks of Indiana and Fred Upton of Michigan, plus former Republican Justin Amash of Michigan.
The vote was 240 in favor, 187 Republicans against, with six Republicans not voting. Mitch McConnell’s Republican-led Senate took a pass. “The president is not a racist,” said he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Perhaps Trump isn’t a racist. But he does a persuasive impersonation of one.
The pitiable Sen. Graham, who in 2015 called Trump “a race-baiting” bigot, has morphed into Trump’s most obliging lapdog, calling The Squad “a bunch of communists” who, Graham claims, “hate our country.”
Silent and complicit
What are sensible people to make of this? Why has the Republican Party fallen silent, or become complicit, in the face of Donald Trump’s efforts to de-Americanize America? Hello?
Well, there’s the obvious stuff. The ruinous, inequitable tax cut for the rich. Trump’s pick for Supreme Court judges. His careless gutting of government regulations that protect citizens from unfettered corporations. His refusal to lift a finger against onrushing climate change.
Unhappily, we must consider evidence of a much uglier motive to explain Republican willingness to let Trump wreck the nation: restoration of white political power and dominance.
The Republican Party is estimated to be almost 90 per cent white. But the United States is becoming multicultural. Not everyone is enthusiastic about that, and some have been doing something about it. And not just Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.
The late John Tanton, an ophthalmologist, spent the last 40 years quietly leading the nativist anti-immigration movement. After the 1965 Immigration Act removed the national origins quota that had limited immigration to white Europeans, in 1979 he founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform to persuade Americans that immigration poses a threat to the country. By then many immigrants of color had arrived and many more were legally knocking at an open door.
Tanton promoted English as the nation’s official language and founded a think tank, Center for Immigration Studies, to sell respectable-sounding anti-immigration policies through the news media, according to historian Carly Goodman. He scrupulously avoided racist language. His organizations successfully pushed anti-immigration legislation that has left millions of people undocumented who might have obtained legal status, she writes in the Washington Post.
But in 1993 Tanton ’fessed up, noting: “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
White at any cost
Another shaper of our racially turbulent times was the late Thomas B. Hofeller, a Republican strategist and master Congressional district gerrymanderer who for 50 years busied himself removing voting power from large urban, multicultural areas and giving it to white suburbs and rural areas. His handiwork — which allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than visa-versa — lives on.
In 2018, for example, Democrats in North Carolina won 50 per cent of the vote but got only 23 per cent of Congressional seats, reminds historian Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory University, writing in Time magazine.
Anderson’s take on the Republican silence regarding Trump’s assault on the nation’s legal, political and ethical norms? She argues that “Republicans yearn for a white Republic.” Ominously, she warns: “For white America to exist, America must die. And the Republicans have made their choice.”
We seem to have underestimated the shock and dismay some white people felt when a black man was elected president. Republicans in 25 states now have mounted efforts to deny racial minorities voting access. And strangely, Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell steadfastly refuses to protect the nation’s demonstrably vulnerable voting infrastructure from being hacked.
Perhaps it’s unfair to conclude that Republicans won’t curb Trump because, like some Evangelicals who think he’s a God-sent weapon against abortion, Republicans believe he’s their ticket back to white dominance.
If it is unfair, Congressional Republicans seem in no particular hurry to prove it.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.